The NRC-CAB Maze: Who Gains, Who Loses
This was supposed to be an absolute potboiler. The camera first captures images of people on the streets of Assam led by energetic young student leaders and not so young non-student youth leaders demanding a foreigner-free Assam. Assam bandhs, road & rail blockades, picketing in front of oil installations were everyday occurrences and in between young Assamese boys and girls selling homemade pitha, tamul-paan and other stuff on the roadside to show self-sufficiency and to depict to the world that Assamese can also do “business.” The noise pervades every home in Assam whether Assamese or not and schools, colleges are shut forever resulting in academic year loss and this was the late 70s and early 80s of the last century. The camera now cuts to 1983 onwards when the agitationists become more agitated, whole of Assam boycotts elections, police & paramilitary forces take the bull by the horn creating martyrs in the process, emotions all around, Nellie happens but somehow the intensity in the movie slackens. Switch to 1985: in the last scene a photograph appears where a group of youngsters (some students, some not) signing an agreement in the presence of the Prime Minister of India. Assam erupts with joy and the leaders receive heroic welcomes. That was the happy ending.
Well, that was supposed to be the happy ending and a movie which was a blockbuster hit then is today being ridiculed for delivering nothing or too little. The actors of that movie are being cursed for acting too well and the audience are cursing themselves for being naïve. A sequel to that plot is being threatened to be carried out when we come to the present day scenario in Assam with NRC and CAB.
To gauge the political pulse of the state in the aftermath of the publication of the final draft of NRC, one has to simply assess the reactions of the primary players in the entire episode. The petitioner APW is unhappy, the ruling party BJP is unhappy, student organisations are unhappy and Congress as usual is speaking in many languages. But what are the reactions of the people on the street? At a first glance, barring a few here and there, the people of Assam want to move on with their daily lives. The people of the state have accepted that CAB will be passed in the Parliament and while some organisations will oppose it and make noises, in the end, through CAB, a majority of the numbers excluded from the NRC will be made citizens of the country. So pragmatists amongst the people believe that the solutions to the issues of the indigenous people of Assam lie in the implementation of Clause 6 of the Accord, which reads, ”Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.”
In this context, many in Assam are frustrated by the lies propagated, deceitfulness imposed over the past few decades by the primary actors on the illegal migrants’ issue. Today, when a curtain was sought to be drawn on the issue, the utterings of these players have only resulted in confusion and uncertainty ahead in the future. So it will be another few months, if not years, when a clearer scenario is expected to emerge and it is another matter that with the retirement of the current CJI, whether the issue will be chased with equal zeal as was done in the last few years.
So, pretentions aside, it is imperative for the Committee set up to examine the implementation of the Clause 6 of Assam Accord, publish its findings sooner than later by absorbing the views of all communities residing in Assam. The Clause has to be implemented in letter and spirit and only then, probably due respect will be bestowed on the 855 martyrs who laid down their lives to protect the fragile identity of the people of Assam.